"Ready?" I called out to the other Gladers beside me. Alby, Gally, Nick, and I all stood in a line with burning torches of wood in our hands. I could feel the warmth of the fire on my face. "After three! One, two, three!"
Our arms moved in complete synchronization and the wood landed in the bottom of our massive pile of logs and twigs. The flames spread immediately, leaping high into the navy blue sky and slamming me with the force of the heat. A smile stretched across my face as the other Gladers cheered and whooped loudly from around us.
None of us were musically gifted except for Garret, a boy with sandy blond hair, stormy grey eyes, and a square jaw. He could sing pretty well. He wrote songs in his free time when he wasn't working with the other Raisers. His voice was one of the highlights of our monthly bonfires, where he sang until his throat was raw and he could barely speak the next day.
"What's this month's song called, Garret?" Nick asked the boy of about fifteen years old. He laughed lightly and took out a few pieces of paper with writing scrawled on them.
"I named it 'Free' because that's my biggest goal: to get out of this shuck place and make the Creators sorry for what they did to us!"
"YEAH!" The majority of the Glade shouted in reply, me included. Fists pumped in the air according to the voices. A strange sensation of rebellion was filling up my chest; suddenly, all I wanted to do more than anything was personally tell the Creators to screw themselves. All of us had gone through way too much already with only a year of being in this prison-like place.
Garret smiled in reply, showing off his perfectly straight teeth. He must have had braces in the past because no one had teeth that were naturally as straight as his were. As a thirteen year old named Otto played the drums on different sized pails, Garret's voice carried out above the roaring of the flames. The song was slow at first but then slowly built rhythm until it picked up and some of the boys were goofishly dancing along in delight. It was hard not to forget all of our worries with the heat of the flames and music to lift our spirits.
Frypan was busy passing out chocolate chip cookies to everyone. Mine was quickly melting with how close I was to the fire, so I moved farther back so the chocolate wouldn't get all over my fingers. I took a bite and closed my eyes, soaking in Garret's voice, the beat of the makeshift drums, the laughter of the Gladers, and the taste of chocolate. I was almost lost in it when Minho's voice broke me out of my trance.
"Hope you're not a lightweight."
I opened my eyes to see him heading toward me with a clear, glass bottle of amber liquid in his hand. My nose immediately crinkled. It was Gally's secret recipe, and no one knew what was actually in that stuff. He refused to tell us. Nevertheless, countless people drank it anyway because it was alcohol.
"I've actually never tried that before," I admitted without shame as I eyed the bottle with contempt. I could smell the distinct scent of the beverage even from a foot away with the cork on. It burned my nose.
Minho's eyebrows raised, then quickly returned to their normal position on his face. "I would say I'm surprised, but I'm really not." He swirled the liquid around the glass container and watched as it formed a whirlpool. "You've really never even had a sip?"
"Something about drinking alcohol near a raging fire has always been a big no-no for me." I shrugged indifferently. "Besides, that stuff smells gross enough to send the bugs away."
Minho laughed so that his eyes took on the shape of crescents and dimples carved into his cheeks. "That is true, I'll give you that. But really- it's not that bad. It just burns a little. Watch."
He swiftly uncorked the bottle and downed a huge gulp that made me cringe just looking at him. Instead of spitting it out like I would have, he simply swallowed and twisted his face in such a way that made him look like he had eaten something extremely sour. Now it was my turn to laugh as he spread his arms out as if to say "ta-da!"